Family, food and fellowship are the focus of Thanksgiving. It’s a time for traveling to grandma’s house, or visiting other relatives, or hosting friends and family members ourselves. It should also be a time for reflecting on what, exactly, we are thankful for.
We all know the story of the first Thanksgiving, with the Native Americans bringing lifesaving food to the Pilgrims and both reaching across a divide of culture and race to embrace each other’s common humanity and give thanks to God. This is the idealized version, at least, and it’s worth preserving because it’s worth pursuing.
Today, the trend is to empty our holidays of God and religion because, it is asserted, the diversity of faiths make it impossible to include everyone in one national celebration. Yet this is not the message of the first Thanksgiving. When the Pilgrims and Indians got together, the English prayed to the Christian God in Jesus Christ, and the first Americans presumably thanked their own gods. Yet no offense was taken. Their common human nature and the universal need for food, fellowship and worship were the bonds that united the two groups.
Of course, as Christians, the Pilgrims believed their faith to be true and superior to that of the Indians. And they would be totally justified in seeking to convert their dinner hosts through any means beside force. Yet there would be little chance for the dialogue of faith to take place without the recognition of a common humanity, and the gathering around a common table.
So on this Thanksgiving, let us gives thanks for our faith, and the freedom to practice it openly as Catholics. In our multicultural, religiously diverse America, let us resolve not to hide the great gift of Catholicism for fear of offending. Rather, let us, like the Pilgrims, pray openly, share our table willingly, and invite others freely into the great gift of the Catholic faith, which we are blessed to have received ourselves.
That is the American way.